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UK Home Sec wants Minority Report-style policing – using your slurped data

Be a shame to waste the 'vast quantities' of lovely citizen data!

Theresa May

UK Home Secretary Theresa May has called on police forces to use predictive analytics in crime prevention as a way of mining the "vast quantities of data" the public now generates.

Speaking at the Police ICT Suppliers Summit, she said: "Forces have not yet begun to explore the crime prevention opportunities that data offers."

She said the use of predictive analytics could help forces "identify those most at risk of crime, locations most likely to see crimes committed, patterns of suspicious activity that may merit investigation and to target their resources most effectively against the greatest threats."

All of that would need to be subject to "the proper restrictions to ensure privacy and that access and use of data is lawful and appropriate," she said.

May said that as more people use digital devices, forces will need to exploit digital information to investigate crimes and better protect the public. "We need digital investigation capabilities at every rank, in every force," she said.

The unprecedented amount of digital information being generated by people every day has led to an increase in demand in the needs for digital forensic skills, she said.

"Citizens increasingly capture what is happening around them on video, generating potential evidence of crimes. Policing has not yet caught up: the most common means of contacting the police remains the telephone. Police forces must follow the example of banks and retailers and do more to connect with citizens who increasingly live their lives on line," she said.

May also noted that too much money is still spent on expensive, fragmented and outdated systems.

She said of of those inconsistencies are not related to complex systems. She noted how there is currently no single list of hair colours for identifying suspects or convicts and describing victims, agreed across all forces, makes automated comparison of records impossible.

"One force lists the colour maroon which other forces don’t recognise, while others disagree on whether a hair colour is brown-auburn or simply auburn," she said.

"And over the years the architecture of forces’ IT systems have grown so confused and archaic," she said.

May praised the work of the Police ICT Company, which aims to standardise the disparate IT systems. However, the body has no mandate to force through change and took four years to be established after May first announced its creation. ®

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